Point/Counterpoint

Work in America

Moe Allen, December 10, 2013

Working in America is more than just a job. In an article by Amitai Etzoioni, “Working at McDonald’s,” the author explains what he thinks is happening to future America through the American youth because they choose to work at McDonald’s. He basically says that it is a waste of time and that it is degrading our country’s advancement by way of our youth workforce. He contends that our youth are settling for lower paying jobs in high school, which spirals them into the low paying job force because they don’t continue their higher educational path. In one manner, I agree with him. Yes, some of our youth are falling behind in the educational realm, but I don’t think that it is because of McDonald’s.

Etzioni states that “these jobs undermine school attendance and involvement, impart few skills that will be useful in later life, and simultaneously skew the values of a teen -agers- especially their ideas about the worth of a dollar.”  However, so many youth don’t have the ability to attend college directly out of high school; for these youth they choose a “McDonald’s” to pass the time and help them to reach their goal of attending higher education. There are lots of advantages to working at a low wage job as opposed to having a “lemonade stand.” Unlike your ”lemonade stand,” at McDonald’s you learn the art of working with other people, working for other people, and also having other people work for you; this is a great building block for future entrepreneurs.  

     Most Americans would like to think that their time spent working anywhere is more than just a job, and that they are not just spinning their wheels “doing something for nothing.” When you work at a job, it is always more than just that. It is always a learning experience whether you realize it at that moment or much later in life. You learn to hone your people skills, which is very productive later in life when you have that employee or employer that just doesn’t know how to communicate properly with their subordinates. It teaches you how to handle certain situations with your workers once you are placed in a managerial position. Just the little things such as being a cashier will teach you the mechanics of accounting and the responsibility of handling currency properly. These few skills are examples of future bankers, accountants and business entrepreneurs.

     Working in America is not just a job; it is also a way to help you become a better person, by allowing you to get ahead. American youth can work while still attending high school, and therefore can earn money to save for college tuition, or use the experience as a training program to pursue the American dream of owning and running a business. To work at McDonald’s is not a waste of time nor does it undermine our “American Dream.” I think that our life experiences support our vision for the future.

 

Moe Allen

Moe Allen studies English and Philosophy in a learning community.

Comment

Posted by Roger LaBrie on
You make a couple of very good points in the argument about work, and specifically working at McDonald’s. I will add to your argument with several more valid points. There are several other valuable skills a teen employed by McDonald’s can learn!
One of the most important skills a teen can learn from working at McDonald’s is a good work ethic. They learn that they have to arrive to the job on time and to complete their tasks in order to get a paycheck. If they fail to show up on time or do not do their job, there are normally consequences. If they perform poorly, the consequences might be the loss of employment. They can also learn that good performance gets them rewarded, normally by a pay raise or a promotion. For good achievers, a pay raise reinforces their good work ethic. Many teens’ first real exposure to reward and consequence is their first job. The exposure can be a foundational lesson that shapes the way they participate in the work force in the future.
Time management skills are another attribute that young adults can learn from jobs like McDonald’s. They must quickly learn to balance the number of hours they work in order to maintain good grades in high school. The ability to prioritize multiple tasks is an important skill that working helps develop. Students that quickly learn the ability to prioritize their responsibilities are more likely to be successful in the long run. Additionally, teens discover, that with a little effort, they can maintain good grades while working and can use that experience in the future.
All workers need to learn foundational work place skills. McDonald’s is as good a place to learn those skills as any other place. A successful member of the work force will build on lessons learned from previous jobs and apply them to their current and future jobs. Young adults should be proud to highlight they have learned those skills by selling that fact on future resumes. Any job is a good job!
Posted by Morgan McCready on
Although many fast food industries provide teens with decent paying employment, minimal social learning situations, and perhaps even the passage from childhood to adulthood for many, it distracts and dissuades them from their schooling. It may even perhaps deter teens from pursuing an advanced education that can significantly alter an individual’s future.
It is arguable that most teens require a part time or full time job. They need to support themselves and pay for the costs of everyday living, along with the possibility of any substantial expenses for additional schooling, but at what cost? Amitai Etzioni, a notable sociologist, asserts in his excerpt, “Working at McDonalds” that fast food industries “are breeding grounds for robots working for yesterday’s assembly lines, not tomorrow’s high-tech posts.” With the tedious and regulated work, teens are unable to express any ingenuity or personal decision making. This, in turn, creates and allows little room for learning. Once again, however, it may be an obligation for a considerable amount teens, including myself, to be employed during or after high school. They may need to fund their higher education, but fast food employment may not place them at an advantage. Fast food industries often require their employees to work interminable hours along with late closing shifts, which deviates away from valuable and limited time that could be spent focusing on their studies. The inability to grow or obtain any vendible skills, with no emphasis on the importance of education, is also a monumental issue that accompanies fast food employment.
The amount of negative repercussions associated with this field of employment is alarming. It is evident that pursuing a higher education will likely ensure a significant raise in yearly salary. In 2009, a study by The National Center for Education Statistics determined that individuals with a high school education earned a median annual salary of 30,000. In contrast, obtaining a four year bachelor’s degree can significantly increase this figure. The Bureau of Labor Statistic states that in 2011, an individual with a bachelor’s degree had a median Salary of $45,000. Where as a McDonalds crew member only receives a yearly income of $16,000. Nevertheless, if a job is necessary, other areas of employment are better options. Landscaping or serving in a restaurant can provide for a broader social learning atmosphere and the ability to gain career worthy knowledge. These options provide room for expansion, innovation, and personal integrity. Personally, working in a restaurant has taught me how to juggle multiple tasks and handle a variety of ever changing different and laborious situations, whether it be a problem solving opportunity or a disgruntled guest. I am able to maintain my considerable amount of school work to the company’s respect and encouragement revolving my education and further aspirations. In addition, companies similar to my employment, often provide career opportunities for growth, rather than the repetitive duties, suppression, and lack of motivation for self improvement that fast food industries tend to condone. There are better opportunities for employment besides fast food industries, which teens can choose from if it is imperative to that individual to work throughout high school. However, if at all possible, teens should ultimately place schooling as a top priority along with a primary concern with no other distractions or hindrance. Individuals, specifically teens, need to grasp the importance of education and the considerable difference it can make in their lives. Therefore schooling needs to be placed as a top concern for teens, along with what demands their focus, rather than a minimum wage job with no career ladder.
Posted by Matt Cucullu on
It’s no secret that most people aren’t exactly enamored with their jobs. Have we considered why so many people dread returning to work after even a short amount of time off? We’ve even adopted phrases within our culture that reject the concept of work, such as “Thank God it’s Friday!” and “Sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays!” Why is it so many people focus on the negative aspects of their jobs, to the point that it is a chore, rather than a joy? Is it possible that perhaps the problem is not our jobs, but our general attitude towards work, and this constant idea that our jobs could or should be better?

Make no mistake, ambition is not a bad thing. In fact, it is a very good thing. Why else are we in school if not to improve our employment opportunities? Having worked in an extremely competitive field, where unemployment rates can reach well into the 90% range, I can attest to the fact that, without ambition, I wouldn’t have been able to survive emotionally or financially. I can also attest to the fact that, in support of that ambition, I’ve done some jobs that I felt were really, really, awful. Through these jobs, though, I was able to realize the value of work. They provided me with the opportunity to develop my soft skills—things like customer service, workplace etiquette, and proper communication with supervisors and co-workers. These are the skills today’s employers value, oftentimes more than the technical skills and education required by the job.

One way we can rearrange our thinking towards work is to realize that any job, whether it’s skilled or unskilled, is necessary. Otherwise, the job wouldn’t even exist. To ask someone, “Why would you do that job? You know there are better ones out there,” not only demeans their work (which they’re obviously willing to do, even if they don’t necessarily like it) but is also condescending to the worker. Just because a person performs a job that we might not perform ourselves does not mean the job is unnecessary, nor does it automatically mean that the person should try and go find something better.

To constantly be thinking about finding a better job ultimately creates an artificial ideal of what we think work should be. When we idealize something, we are either blind to the possible pitfalls, or we intentionally ignore them altogether. Then, when we see that the reality does not match our fantasy, we keep thinking, “Well, even though this didn’t work out like I thought it would, I know I’ll be happy when . . . .” and the cycle begins again. When we believe happiness only exists in the future, that’s exactly where it will stay.

It is far more important for people to want what they have than to have what they think they want. Perhaps it is time we start looking for things we can appreciate in our current work, rather than focus on an ideal work situation that simply doesn’t exist. If we can start doing that on a day-to-day basis, perhaps that next case of the Mondays won’t seem quite so bad.
Posted by Tiffany Abeyta on
It is highly doubtable that we work in America just because. There is always a reason behind our labor; whether it is to provide a place to live or food for your family, to pay a car payment or insurance, or to save for an education to have a better future. No matter the circumstances, we work to live. So to say that any job in which we work hard in is miniscule, is somewhat offensive. A job of any sort should be looked at as a stepping stone building on an eventual career or a way of living, not anything less than that.
I strongly dispute Amitai Etzioni and his views on young adults in the work place. Etzioni, who states that, “these jobs undermine school attendance and involvement, impart few skills that will be useful in later life, and simultaneously skew the values of teenagers,” (Etzioni 934) appears to have no experience of the benefits that these jobs he sees as miniscule really have on shaping us young adults in the real world. Based off of my own personal experience: I never let work interfere with my education in any way. If anything it gave me more experience with the real world and the tribulations that I would encounter than school ever did. I was no longer coddled, and was held accountable for my own actions as well as the consequences that came along. If I had any issues in the workplace, like being tardy or having to call in, I was responsible for taking care of those issues on my own, not my parents. Which is clearly something Etzioni was blind to when he made the statement, “There is no father or mother figure with which to identify, to emulate, to provide a role model and guidance.” (Etzioni 936). Not to mention, this is something we all know and agree to when we sign the contract at any type of working environment. In turn, this prepared me for college and life outside of high school where excuses aren’t tolerated. Where, other than within the actual real world, can you learn something like that? Granted, grades K-12 are beneficial in some ways, like learning how to read and write, or understanding complex equations that 90% of us won’t use in our daily lives; they don’t teach you the life skills that you need after graduation. To say that these jobs are detrimental or unfavorable to our future is absurd; simply because they are the exact opposite of that. These jobs prepare us for life outside of high school and give us the skills that we need in our future endeavor whatever they may be.
Posted by Katelyn Turgeon on
Work - “An Activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.” By going off of this definition, haven’t we all worked at some point in our lives? We work to earn good grades in school, homework. Work to earn things from our parents, housework. We might not get paid in cash, but we get paid in other things such as freedom or praise. When we get older, the reasons why we work for things change. As we age, the responsibilities we obtain being to separate us from our younger selves.
For many teens these days, the priority of making money has surpassed the endeavor for moving on up in the world. A thought for a teenager who has gotten their first job may be, “Now I’m able to buy the things I’ve been wanting.” While for other teenagers who pay bills think, “How will I pay my bills next week?” Work has become less of wanting to better yourself and move on up in the world, and more of “How am I going to make this money?” or “I need to feed my family.” Instead of wanting to perform better for unselfish reasons, many people just do so because of higher pay or praise.
Money makes the world go around. I think this is true. Everyone that’s working is working for that money. We need it. We need to pay our bills, feed our families, and take care of ourselves. Money is the motive to do better. Personally, I think money is the reason why people strive to get higher positions in their careers. People do not care about how their job can better them mentally; they care about the title and the higher pay. People will also find a lazy person to do the work if they need it because that lazy person will find an easier and quicker way to do things.
I think we need to start teaching teenagers about work ethic. How having a good work ethic can better them in everything from school to work. If we teach them that it’s just all about the money, where are they going to go with that situation? Will teaching them that help them, or will it ultimately ruin them, because now a day’s people will do anything for some money? It’s time to change the world’s idea of work for the better.
Posted by Kaelyn Daughetee on
“Working at McDonalds” by Amitai Etzioni is an argument about why teenagers should not work at McDonalds or any other low-grade job, typically in the fast food market. Etzioni claims teenagers do not learn skills besides working a cash register and manning a coffee machine. He also claims there is no parental guidance on the job; thus, claiming the necessity of having a father or mother-like model to imitate in order to achieve ethical working status. However, he is ignorant to the skills learned and how simple skills have everything to do with adult life.

Teenagers learn several traits even at a low-grade job such as McDonalds. Yes, they have to do tedious work, but even completing simple tasks helps the teenager learn patience with tedious work. All jobs have simple and monotonous chores; however, this is a foundation that leads to gaining more complex skills. Traits they do learn, that Etzioni does not mention, include: communicating skills and responsibility. With any job there is a certain amount of marketing required to levy on a consumer. If an employee does not convey a certain degree of empathy, regardless whether or not the consumer is rude, then a customer will most likely not be happy with the company, and the employee could possibly lose their job.

To work anywhere has its responsibilities, such as time management and punctuality. College students build their classes to how they want and schedule work around their life. According to the punctuality of the student determines whether or not a student can keep their job while attending school. Since a college student must learn to break out of their high school routine, a skill easily learned is how to manage time.

A teenager preparing for college cannot expect to have a mother or father figure in their work area. If a parent like figure were to work alongside a student, they would become dependent on the parental figure and would not learn the responsibility of taking care of themselves. The point of getting a job during high school is to prepare for college and the adult life of being self-sufficient. Adults do not “emulate” a person at work because they do not need to. Etzioni discusses the “old” times when children had paper routes and managed lemonade stands; however, they would infrequently have supervision while working these jobs.

I have a difference of opinion about Etzioni’s entire claim about how “school is more important [than work].” Schooling is very important—especially with today’s philosophy of “needing a degree to get a job.” However, just having knowledge without experience significantly decreases the chance of a job in a student’s field of choice.

Every teenager has to start somewhere, and to work in fast food is an ideal first job that does not require experience. In today’s society, jobs in retail and other up-scale businesses do not want high school students since they do not have the experience. With this said, the logical choice for a student is to start work at a fast food restaurant. Skills needed for any other job start with responsibility, communication, and timeliness and those are some of the many skills which can be learned at a simple place such as McDonalds.
Posted by Zach Branham on
The work force is constantly changing, especially how we view different jobs and their relevance to our society, something that Etzioni must have forgotten to take into account. People who work in fast food are not generally degree-toting family members; more likely they’re of the younger generation or do not have any other skills. Working at fast food in America is a stigma that is seen as negative and something that can hold you back - something that needs to change.
A strong point towards the fact that Americans view the fast food work force so negatively can easily be seen in the difference in how jobs at McDonalds are viewed in America versus how they’re viewed in Japan. In America having a job at McDonalds means that you’re either young and haven’t had a job or are just not capable of working anywhere else. In contrast, in Japan having a job at McDonalds is considered a career. Not only at McDonalds is it considered a career choice but at many other fast food restaurants such as KFC, Burger King and MOS Burger for example. It’s clear here that our society viewing work at these places as demeaning is not worldly agreed upon and that maybe it’s a stigma that we should look into changing.
Throughout the most recent of generations, the 60’s up to the 2010’s, we’ve seen a decline in interest in working at fast food restaurants. Why do we think this is? At what point did working in the fast food business become something that should be shunned instead of something that should be a part of growing up? Many adults from the age of 35-50 can say that when they were growing up it was considered a good way to make some money while you were in school and somewhat of a rite of passage. In America, unlike Japan for example, a teenager will be made fun and ridiculed for getting into a career that wouldn’t even be considered a career at all. Someone should not be made fun of the career choices they make, and almost all fast food restaurants do offer career plans at their stores that can help you move up within the chain of command, many going on to work at corporate offices for the company when they only started out flipping burgers.
Another thing to understand is that many of the people who work at these fast food restaurants are those that are in desperate need of money or financial security. So while you’re making fun of the older folks that work there, the young that work there, or even the handicapped that work there, understand that you’re not only demeaning the position of the job where YOU go to eat your food, but you are also demeaning their life and their situation. If your job and money were taken from you and you had nothing to fall back, no specific job skills that you can prove outside of a fancy resume, where would you possibly turn?
Posted by Crystal Montes on
In the essay, “Working at McDonald’s,” author Amitai Etzioni, expressed his strong opinion that working, especially at fast food places like McDonald’s, is substandard for teenagers. Etzioni tells us that based off of studies, two-thirds of juniors and seniors in American high schools work part time jobs mainly at fast food restaurants. He also explains that due to teen-agers workings while in school effects their "school attendance and involvement, impart few skills that will be useful in later life, and simultaneously skew the values of teen-agers -- especially their ideas about the worth of a dollar." "Go back to school", said Amitai Etzioni, but did Etzioni consider those students who don't have a choice because they've assumed the role of an adult at an early age and, unfortunately, their families are unable to afford simple living expenses let alone college? And if a student is able to maintain being a student and having a job, does it really matter where they work?
Poor, low class, teen-age students all over America, especially in unquestionable states, have to get jobs to pay for college in order to get a proper education. These low-income high school graduates have high hopes of becoming a college freshman in the fall but usually fail to show up once the fall semester hits. Shankar Vedantam, NPR's social science corresponded, tells us that many colleges are pushing for low-income students to apply for college, but it hasn't been easy due to certain finances. David Greene, an NPR host, expresses that "poor student’s face many hurdles . . . There's a persistent fear that higher education is predominately serving upper and middle-class kids." If you are born in a middle-class family most likely you are going to college but if you are born into a low-class family the chances are slim.
Many Americans, not just teens, will accept any job willing to hire. Now in days, it is hard for the average American to find work due to America’s recession and debt. On top of that, the high cost of education is getting higher. The State System of Higher Education approved a 3 percent tuition increase for the 2013-14 school year at 14 state owned universities (post-gazette.com) making it extremely harder for low-income families to send their children to college for the proper education they will need for a brighter future. If a teen-ager, coming from a poor family, wants to go to college they, most of the time, have to get a job to be able to afford tuitions. Even if this means working at McDonald's or KFC because to some low class students it's better than not going to college at all.
McDonald’s has more than 37,000 restaurants in over 119 countries making it possible for people all over the world to earn an income even if it’s not much. McDonald’s also provide flexible schedules for students, celebrate diversity and growing by working your way up the ladder towards cooperate opportunities. Nearly 50% of their corporate were restaurant managers and more than 60% of their owner operators started out as crew members.
To some, McDonald’s may not be the best place to work as a teen but like any other job you trade labor for income and there is knowledge to be gained working at fast food restaurants; for instants learning how to deal with people. Kind, mean, rude, loud, patient, aggressive, and so on, dealing with these different types of people will develop strong social skill which is highly needed in any work field. These are some reasons, in ways, why I disagree with Etzioni encouraging students not to work at McDonalds and other similar restaurants. A job is a job and recognition should be giving to those students willing to get a job to get a degree instead of filling sorry themselves because they are less fortunate than others.
Posted by Allison Stone on
Although Amitai Etzioni has talked about how teens should not work at McDonald's due to no educational experiences within, he has failed to see how it helps others and not just the ones he sees at the moment. Not all teens take working for granted. There is educational learnings within the job just maybe not something he was going for. From experience, getting a job can help you learn respect for money. Once the money is your own you don’t necessarily just waste it. The value of your own money increases and you realize how hard you had to work for that money. I knew if I wanted to drive to school I had to have money for gas. And to get gas money I had to get a job. I didn't just go out and blow it, I saved it. Maybe not all for gas but maybe for food, or something I have been wanting for a while. Granted, I probably didn't need a job at the time but it helped me get places and I learned from it. There is something else good about getting a job in high school, and I learned this from personal experience. You get a job to earn money right? Who says that all the money earned goes to wants? What about needs? Out of every paycheck I put so much into my savings for college. My friend had to get a job if she wanted to go to college, her parents couldn't afford it. Etzioni believes that it just comes with it and that the teens just party and waste their money but mostly that’s not the case, most save it to go to school. Like he says in his closing, “Go back to school,” for some people that's the only way.
Posted by Doug Hughes on
Working in America is more than just a job. In May 2014, 145 million people were employed in the U.S. (Gallup.com). Unless you are one of the fortunate few that are independently wealthy, the primary reason Americans work is to eat and pay the bills. Since humans need to work to survive, we might ask ourselves; can the act of working help bring about any happiness or is the work itself its own reward? Some toil countless hours a week because of a passion for the job, which to them makes it all worthwhile. Others work just to make ends meet and use their surplus time to better their lives in meaningful ways. By being a part of the work force you inherit a responsibility to maintain a work ethic; defined by Webster Dictionary as “the belief in the benefit in the importance of work and its ability to strengthening (your) character” and doing the best that you can. With no endeavors to enrich your own life or maybe that of others, working just to survive is an empty way to live. We should be working towards a goal other than just survival. By not working with integrity you’re wasting precious time, possibly your life and the chance at truly being happy.
The job we choose can be its own reward in life. Creating something with your bare hands and own ideas or helping a group of people better their own lives can give you a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Teachers, scientists and social workers, for example, are following a calling and are usually very passionate about their careers. They want to share, educate and inform others while passing down knowledge to the next generation. In other words they have a strong work ethic. The pay for these careers may not afford you all the pleasures of life but you will have a sense of satisfaction that will be remembered by you and others for years to come.
The goal of material gain leads some towards jobs that will afford them the most sought after possessions money can buy. Mostly these high paying career choices involve being good at what you do and some personal sacrifice. Practiced skill and self-improvement are required for star athletes and award winning thespians to be the best in their field if they are to achieve the notoriety or salary they seek.
I consider those that get to combine their passion and a big paycheck fortunate. It is not often that the best paying careers happen to be the same ones you lay awake and dream about as a youngster. Doctors and lawyers are noble professions but require a substantial amount of time investment others might perceive as not worth giving up a part of life to achieve.
Some people, like myself, have chosen to work the marginalized jobs of America so that I have the time to spend raising my children and pursue other things that matter to me. The time we parents save by not pursuing a complicated career is used to enjoy what I feel is more important and worthwhile. Saving for vacations and college funds is much tougher and I can’t always have what I want when I want it, but the sacrifice we parents are making is an investment in the next generation of working Americans. We hope to impart in our children, these future contributors to society, some integrity and responsibility. The value of earned money and a strong work ethic is taught by showing them to do a good job and strive for success at whatever they set out to accomplish. The time spent with family and friends instead of longer hours at a job is invaluable and worth every penny given up in wages.
It was argued to me by a co-worker that “pushing this button (to start my machine) and going home to (nothing but) video games and Facebook is what makes me happy.” Floating through life, with no other purpose than to just be a consumer, is only an excuse for not having the courage to evaluate oneself and make the necessary changes for improvements to be truly happy. Even though they might have a job to just pay the bills, this what Christopher Herz calls, “self-preservation” and “a lack of work ethic that is contributing to the downfall of American industry” (C. Herz The Absence of Action). We become complacent and stop seeking answers and innovation, expecting others to carry the work load.
The point is to work not only because you have to but work for a purpose or towards something grander. As Mike Rowe said, “be in the business of getting it done” and believe in what you do. Whether your reason is because you have a passion for your work, a passion for money and lavish things or a passion for life outside of work, it might take a round or two before you can know what you really want. It’s your choice what form of work will contribute to your happiness. Try different things and enjoy the journey.
Leave a Reply



(Your email will not be publicly displayed.)